For the US national security sector, Tuesday mostly was a status-quo election — but with one glaring exception: Say hello to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.
The Republican tidal wave means defense and national security committees in the Senate will have new chairmen — but all are familiar faces to the Pentagon and arms manufacturers. Voters also sent most sitting members of national security committees back to the Capitol.
By 10:30 p.m. (EST), it was clear the 2014 midterm elections would indeed bring the Republican wave many prominent political pollsters and analysts predicted. The GOP picked up 12 House seats, with several still outstanding. But the big news was the party’s seven-seat, with two competitive races outstanding, flip to gain control of the Senate.
Republicans will have at least 52 seats in the upper chamber, and Maine independent Sen. Angus King on Tuesday night indicated he might caucus with the GOP. That would make it 53 GOP seats.
Votes were still being counted in Alaska and Virginia on Wednesday morning, meaning the Republican majority technically could reach 54. But that’s still well short of the 60 votes required in the chamber to end debate on legislation like annual Pentagon spending and authorization bills and move to a final vote.
Political scholars and analysts say there is a chance congressional Republicans and the Democratic president with whom they so staunchly disagree, Barack Obama, could reach accords quickly on issues like immigration and tax reform, fast-track trade authority and national security issues.
But on other issues — like finally stitching together a fiscal package that would lessen or replace the remaining defense and domestic sequestration cuts — those experts are predicting continued stalemate in Washington.
“After Election Day, getting anything done in America’s increasingly polarized Congress will be very difficult,” said Craig Volden, a politics professor at the University of Virginia.
“But not all hope is lost,” Volden said. “Lawmakers who want to legislate can still be effective. The recipe for success has 3 parts: cultivating a legislative portfolio that builds on their personal interests and experience, building coalitions, and focusing on issues of special importance to their constituents.”